The Nye-Ham debates, or why fundamentalism exists

Connor WoodScience Vs. Religion

Last week, Bill Nye and Ken Ham debated each other at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. I tried my best to ignore this. This decision was good for my mental health, but maybe not so good for my professional life. As the week went on, in fact, I started feeling just a little guilty. I’m doing a PhD in religion and science. I write a blog called, last I checked, “Science On Religion.” I should probably weigh in somehow about this creationist-evolutionist debate, right? I don’t want to. But I should. So here are a few thoughts about the modern religion-science media circus. You’re welcome.

The reason I didn’t get too excited about this religion-science hubbub in Kentucky was because I knew it would be, er, incredibly frustrating. Ken Ham is wrong. Pathetically so. I do not respect his beliefs (although if I met him personally I would try to respect the man). I don’t respect his beliefs because they are false beliefs, and demonstrably so. The people who think the world was created in six days six thousand years ago are Just. Plain. Wrong. That is not what happened. By hinging their beliefs in Jesus, their sense of meaning in life, and their connections with the past on this ludicrous cosmogonical error, creationists are doing more and deeper damage to the life of the spirit in this age than any Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett could ever do for them.

Meanwhile, however, the popularizing anti-Creationist crusaders are committing a similarly grave error by making a cartoon out of faith and working their damnedest to convince us that all religious people are dolts and buffoons – not by saying so outright, mind you, but by giving the most attention to the least-enlightened representatives of faith, by debating the Ken Hams of the world but not the Huston Smiths or the John Haughts. There’s a strategic reason they do this, though: since the 19th century, the religion-science divide has been encouraged by the popularizers of Science for the sake of their profession. What do I mean? Here’s what T.H. Huxley, a fierce advocate of evolution during Darwin’s era, had to say about religion:

Extinguished theologians lie about the cradle of every science as the strangled snakes beside that of Hercules.

Huxley, the grandfather of Aldous (the guy who wrote Brave New World, which you never finished in high school), was doing something clever when he said this. By pitting science against religion in the public’s eyes, by making it seem as if we had to choose one or the other, he was actually carving out a new space for professional Science as a stakeholder in the public arena.

You see, prior to his era, science was not an institution, nor was it even a profession. Science was a pastime for aristocrats and priests.

Yes – and priests. Before Huxley’s age, a lion’s share of the holders of seats in the British Association for the Advancement of Science – a professional advocacy group in England – were clergymen. Huxley and his friends knew that, if science was to become a profession on par with medicine and the law, there would have to be, um, professional positions for scientists to occupy. There would have to be seats in the Royal Society for the graduates of brand-new doctoral programs in physiology, biology, geology. How were they going to make space for  those seats? By getting the clergymen and amateurs to vacate them, of course. By pitting the new scientists against the old clerics.

And so the religion-science “battle” has always benefited the science as a profession, by helping to open up a power vacuum which scientists could conveniently rush in and occupy. This coup has succeeded; these days, scientists are now looked to as the de facto priests of our modern cosmology, telling us what the universe consists of, how it was created, and what it means. They have largely completed Huxley’s quest to drive religious leaders out of the captain’s chair of culture.

Now, this might not have been such a bad thing in itself.* But the big problem (well, biggest – there are a number of doozies) with the modern priesthood of the scientists is that their consensus answer to the biggest question – the one about meaning – has always been, “There is no meaning!” Here’s Richard Dawkins, for example, telling us in his famously droll way that the universe is void and meaningless:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

For very good reasons, most people simply cannot stomach this answer. Nor should they have to. The universe is a bizarre place. It’s so bizarre that it blew up out of nowhere, on its own. This exploded universe is largely comprised of particles called quarks – which have no physical dimensions and can apparently only exist when bundled together to form hadrons (particles such as protons and neutrons that help form atoms). The universe is so weird that no one knows what “energy” actually is, despite the fact that we know lots about how to use and measure it – and despite the fact that it makes up everything in the cosmos. Simply put, we mere human apes don’t know enough about the cosmos to argue conclusively that it’s “meaningless.” We don’t even know what its basic components actually are. It’s entirely possible that there is objective meaning behind its weirdness.

Of course, it doesn’t always look like it; there’s tons of suffering and randomness and misery in this bizarre universe, and our dreams don’t always come true, and autotune is a thing. So I think people like Dawkins are actually fairly justified in their nihilistic vision. But many other people do find the universe to be objectively meaningful, and for a great many folks life’s worth is predicated on this sense of meaningfulness.

What I’m trying to say is that scientists, in their role as society’s new priests, often tell religious and metaphysical stories that actively alienate a lot of people and are not scientifically justified. It is justifiable, scientifically, to say that the universe is 13.6 billion years old, or that humans evolved from proto-anthropoids. It is not justifiable, scientifically, to say that the universe is meaningless and there is no hope for an objective purpose to life.

This is only my opinion, and I’m sure many readers will disagree. But consider this: there was no fundamentalism in Christianity before the 19th century. Virtually no sociologists of religion will disagree that fundamentalist Christianity – exactly the kind of absurd, wacky nonsense Bill Nye was so valiantly crusading against last week in Kentucky, little bowtie and all – is in part actually a reactionary product of science’s overreach into spheres of meaning.

That’s right: science as a cultural force (not as a methodology) isn’t just fighting fundamentalism. It created it.

Now, Bill Nye doesn’t usually go around claiming that the universe is meaningless and religion is for fools. He’s actually much more reticent about such things than the other big-name science guys, which I commend him for. But by feeding the media frenzy around Ken Ham’s blundering fundamentalism, by publicly focusing the spotlight on Creationism without ever stopping to consider from a sociological or psychological perspective why there are creationists in the first place, he’s helping perpetuate the religion-science division in people’s minds. As I’ve expressed before, Darwinian evolution can make the world look like a very dark and unsettling place, and people are perfectly justified in feeling icky about it. Nye should get smart, and realize that pure facts are almost never enough to convince anyone. If you want to convince someone of something difficult, you need help them through the difficult parts, not gloss over them breezily.

In the meanwhile, though, Nye is unwittingly helping perpetuate a social reality wherein deeply religious people are trained to think of science as the enemy. If 150 years ago T.H. Huxley had chilled out and said, “Hey, look, I think science is neat, and I’m thinking we should fund it. Can we get some seats in this Society for some of my grad students? Thanks, Queen!” rather than waging a successful Machiavellian public-relations war that put religious people deeply on the defensive for generations, there’s a decent possibility that The Fundamentals would never have been written. Instead, now, today, like twisted versions of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, hegemonic science is still duking it out with its bastard son – fundamentalist religion. And Bill Nye and Ken Ham are both just footsoldiers. With bowties.

I think it’s important that this war come to an end. Like, soon. Because unlike Neil DeGrasse Tyson or Sam Harris or other Important Public Men of Science, I believe that the human need for meaning is much stronger than the human need for the National Science Foundation. If we keep pressing this sore spot, if we keep insisting as a culture that you can either have meaning or knowledge but not both, people will by and large choose meaning, and science will become nothing but a plaything of aristocrats once again. And then we will lose all hope of ever solving climate change, of coming to grips with evolution, of exploring space.

And I really, really want to explore space.

So are you one of those who thinks religion is stupid, and science is great? Wonderful. Keep it to yourself. Every single time you post a comment anywhere that perpetuates this war, any time you snark to a religious person about how science makes his or her worldview obsolete, you are bringing our culture one step closer to epistemological shutdown. And that means we all lose.

Or are you a religious person who believes evolution is wrong, and that the world is 6,000 years old? Stop. Seriously, stop. You’re making a fool of yourself, and you are making a fool of your God. So stop giving the T.H. Huxleys and Richard Dawkinses fodder for their ugly rhetorical cannons. I’m sorry, dinosaurs did not live at the same time as humans. The mountain of evidence against this claim is greater than Everest. Stop believing false things. And who wants such an insecure and brittle faith that the knowledge of mankind’s peripheral position in the great vastness of the cosmos shudders you? If your faith is strong, you can look down the barrel of 14 billion years and not blink. Be strong. Accept that the universe is more complex and strange and unexpected than can be written in a few verses of Genesis or Daniel.

Whew. See? This is why I didn’t want to write about Bill Nye and Ken Ham. But seriously, everyone: stop fighting this war. There are much, much more important ones to be fought. Thank you.

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Like what I have to say? Hate what I have to say? Get more perspective and read my friend and colleague Jonathan Morgan’s excellent take on the Bill Nye-Ken Ham debates and the culture wars at ExploringMyReligion.org.

* Plenty of religious Christians rue the day that the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, mixing up what had always been a countercultural movement with the power of the state. Perhaps religion is better counterposed against majority culture than used to prop it up.
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Correction: This post erroneously called the Royal Society the “Royal Academy” until I was notified of the error by a commenter.

Correction of the correction: Previously, this post erroneously claimed that the “lion’s share of seats” in the Royal Society belonged to clerics until Huxley’s time. This was flat-out wrong; I was remembering statistics on the British Association for the Advancement of Science, whose membership was fully 30% clergy in 1830 and a much smaller proportion by the late 19th century. Between its founding in 1830 and 1865, fully 41 Anglican clerics were chairs of sections in the British Association, while between 1865 and 1900 only three priests or clerics served as chairs. In a similarly striking statistic, nine Anglican clergymen served as president of the British Association prior to 1865; after that year, there were zero.

However, a similar trend did occur in the Royal Society, which had stricter standards for membership. Fully one out of ten members in the Society were clergymen in 1849, whereas by 1899 that proportion had dropped to 3%. As one historian puts it, “Banishment of clergymen from positions of influence in the scientific world and the abolishment of clerically dominated education were critical” to the goal of establishing professional positions for scientists as a new class.

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Want to learn more or challenge my interpretation of things? Here are some sources to check out:

• Frank Turner, “The Victorian Conflict between Religion and Science: A Professional Dimension,”  Isis 69:3, 1978

• Thomas Gieryn, “Boundary-Work and the Demarcation of Science from Non-Science: Strains and Interests in Professional Ideologies of Scientists,” American Sociological Review 48:6, 1983

• John Hedley Brooke, “Science and Theology in the Enlightenment,” in Religion and Science: History, Method, Dialog, eds. Mark Richardson & Wesley Wildman. New York: Routledge 1996.

  • Thursday1

    There actually is a conflict between science and religion, though it is a psychological conflict not a strictly logical one. Religion is about seeing mind and personality in the world, while science is about seeing the world as a bunch of impersonal, mechanistic interactions. Of course, there can be both mind and mechanism in the universe, but people tend to have preferences.

    However, religious people will always tend to favour explanations that have more personal causation (of which creationism is a great example) over an explanations that have more impersonal and mechanistic causation, especially in a sensitive area like the origin of humanity. That’s why you get outbreaks of creationism in places where the Bible is not at issue (Native American creationism) or where the official religious authorities have endorsed evolution by natural selection (many Catholic countries).

  • Thin-ice

    I’m still confused about how you think we are going to stop this infusion of creationism (or “ID”) into our public schools, by just ignoring it. These fundamentalists are determined, and have had great success in the southern/Bible states, and most Americans are either ignorant or apathic of this religious trojan horse.

    I disagree with your conclusion: by debating Ham, Nye has raised the awareness of this problem, and scolded Americans for giving their children a second-class science education. Ignoring these people will only help their cause. That 48% of Americans believe in the literal Genesis is a tragedy.)

  • R Vogel

    Thank you. Wouldn’t it have been great if this whole sideshow happened and no one paid attention? I listened to a great talk by Kenneth Miller (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohd5uqzlwsU) yesterday a scientist, anti-ID activist, and (stand back!) a self proclaimed theist, who made some very similar points at the end about forcing children to make the false choice. I was unaware of the historical context, but it makes sense. And I think you are correct in your summaton that if forced to choose between meaning and science, science will lose. To lift something I read in another thread by Daniel Shaeller “The universe has naturally, automatically and without teleological intent given rise to beings capable of generating and appreciating meaning and value.” Deny that and creating a false dilemma indeed hurts everyone.

  • http://batman-news.com Anton

    If we keep pressing this sore spot, if we keep
    insisting as a culture that you can either have meaning or knowledge but
    not both, people will by and large choose meaning, and science will
    become nothing but a plaything of aristocrats once again. And then we
    will lose all hope of ever solving climate change, of coming to grips
    with evolution, of exploring space.

    I absolutely agree. It’s as if we’re stuck between competing reactionary fundamentalisms, conservative Christianity on one side and right-wing, corporate-funded Science on the other. I refuse to accept that the only alternative to nostalgic, obscurantist Biblical literalism is this warmed-over Ayn Rand logical positivism that’s just as nostalgic and naïve.

  • grazorblade

    This article contained a couple of interesting claims. First that fundamentalism started in the 19th century and second that huxley wanted to free seats at the academy for scientists. Is there evidence for these claims? Were there few cultural phenomenon s similar to fundamentalism before the 19th century? Is there evidence that this was huxleys goal and was he alone?

  • R Vogel

    I don’t think anyone is saying to ignore it. Fight introduction of ID and other religious-dogma-masquerading-as-science in the courts, and make the case why there is no false dilemma between science and religion so the average voter, who elects local school boards, is not put into the position of voting for a science they likely don’t have a prayer of understanding (pun intented) over their relgious belief which is part of their culture and identity. The best way to undermine Creationists is to marginalize their crazy ideas as the looney ravings they are, not to engage them as if they have any merit.

  • stanz2reason

    But the big problem (well, biggest – there are a number of doozies) with the modern priesthood of the scientists is that their consensus answer to the biggest question – the one about meaning – has always been, “There is no meaning!” … For very good reasons, most people simply cannot stomach this answer.

    Since when is ‘people won’t like the answer’ supposed to be a factor in matters of rational inquiry?

    “science as a cultural force (not as a methodology) isn’t just fighting fundamentalism. It created it.”

    YEC and the tangential absurdities are the bastard offspring of the cognitive dissonance created when mountains of overwhelming evidence cause an involuntary rejection of common sense, resulting in the notion that people and dinosaurs lived together. While scientific culture might have had an influence by making compelling and verifiable arguments, I think it’s unfair to place as much of the blame as you do. It’s like placing blame on someone wearing a skirt in Los Angeles for the actions of a suicide bomber on the other side of the world.

    In the meanwhile, though, Nye is unwittingly helping perpetuate a social reality wherein deeply religious people are trained to think of science as the enemy.

    I think you’re ignoring that for people with such beliefs, science is the enemy. There are only so many ways you can politely say ‘Your worldview, which is fundamental to the person you are, is so indefensible on any intellectual level that simply by holding it you’re volunteering to be the subject of ridicule.’ The level of Hams break with reality begs the question of whether intellectual civility is really in anyones best interest in cases like this. It’s clear there is no interest to re-engage on their end, though there is plenty of interest in spreading their views. Efforts to relegate fringe beliefs back to the fringe might be in everyones interest.

    That people of faith are happy to let God do the heavy lifting and assign meaning which they adopt is of course their own prerogative. I’d question, however, whether this assignment of meaning even qualifies as objective (if you were even able to determine what meaning has been assigned), even if it’s done by God. It seems you’d simply be assuming someone else’s purpose & meaning and making that your own, hardly objective. I don’t think meaning and purpose exist in anything but a subjective way, as they’re ultimately held by the individual.

    But this does not preclude people to assigning meaning and value to whatever they see fit. There are currently hundreds of the worlds finest athletes competing in the Olympics. Is it reasonable to believe that those non-believing athletes (as it’s statistically likely there’s at least a few) haven’t found meaning in competing at the highest levels in a sport they’ve likely trained their entire life in? Does the non-believeing scientist not find meaning in his work? Or his family? Or some other side passion? Is their meaning & purpose in anyway inferior to one allegedly assigned by God?

    And for what reason should we take God’s meaning as our own? Perhaps his meaning for all born people is to “possibly procreate then definitely die”. That seems as consistent as any. I can think of countless purposes God can assign, many less preferable, but none more preferable than I might assign on my own. I’m capable to taking God’s most super-duper splendid purposes and making them my own.

  • unkleE

    It seems to me that for some scientists science is more important than religion, so they are happy to be conciliatory towards religious believers to help them accept the science. But for other scientists, it seems being anti-religion is more important than the science, so it serves their goals to promote the conflict.

    Thanks, this was a great article, and I’m very glad you endured the pain and wrote it.

  • http://batman-news.com Anton

    Since when is ‘people won’t like the answer’ supposed to be a factor in matters of rational inquiry?

    Well, I don’t know, but it seems it’s okay for nonbelievers when they say, “I’d never believe in a God who allowed such-and-such.” I’m not even saying there’s a good reason to believe in a personal God, but not believing in one because the idea isn’t to one’s liking is pretty standard.

    YEC and the tangential absurdities are the bastard offspring of the cognitive dissonance created when mountains of overwhelming evidence cause an involuntary rejection of common sense, resulting in the notion that people and dinosaurs lived together.

    Yes, one of the most diabolical things about modern religion is the way it coerces people into professing beliefs that fly in the face of what we know about science, just as a test of faith. And poor science education doesn’t help alleviate the problem much.

    While scientific culture might have had an influence by making compelling and verifiable arguments, I think it’s unfair to place as
    much of the blame as you do. It’s like placing blame on someone wearing
    a skirt in Los Angeles for the actions of a suicide bomber on the other
    side of the world.

    “Making compelling and verifiable arguments”? Oh, I’d say it’s a bit more like reducing the entire matter of religion to a debate. Just as Ham and his ilk exploit the scientific ignorance of Christians, the New Atheists have exploited the philosophical ignorance of their flock. Now everyone uses the term science as if it’s synonymous with reality, and ignores the complex and problematic philosophical basis of empirical evidential inquiry. It’s like the universe is revealing itself to us through science, in a very quasi-religious way. As Connor mentioned, the online army of Junior Scientists pretend that science has refuted religious belief, and empirical inquiry is on their side in the big culture war. Why would believers feel intimidated by that?

    I think you’re ignoring that for people with such beliefs, science is the enemy. There are only so many ways you can politely say ‘Your worldview, which is fundamental to the person you are, is so
    indefensible on any intellectual level that simply by holding it you’re
    volunteering to be the subject of ridicule.’ The level of Hams break
    with reality begs the question of whether intellectual civility is
    really in anyones best interest in cases like this.

    So where do you draw the line? I’m all for trashing creationism, and I see no reason to let Ham’s pseudoscience coexist with conventional biology. But it doesn’t seem feasible to subject people’s religious beliefs to the scientific method. Don’t laugh, I’ve heard people here declare that they think all beliefs should be evidence-based. Isn’t that a bit much?

    I don’t think meaning and purpose exist in anything but a subjective way, as they’re ultimately held by the individual.

    Sure. But saying it’s “subjective” doesn’t mean it’s pretend, or that it’s irrelevant. Does it?

  • James Wartian

    Really? The basic premise is flawed. Fundamentalism was not just a reaction to evolutionary science. it was a reaction to a movement that came from far more than science that denied the authority and accuracy of the Bible itself. While obviously discrediting a literal view of Genesis may have been a part of this, it was not the whole picture.

  • Chris Kavanagh

    I’m not so sure that the claims that Christian fundamentalism didn’t exist prior to the 19th Century and the rise of science CREATED fundamentalism are valid. I can certainly imagine that the prominent modern form of Christian fundamentalism have their roots in some 19th Century developments but I’m equally well aware that there were various purges and campaigns waged throughout history, in pretty much all of the world religions, to ‘return to the fundamentals’/restore the ‘original’ teachings. Such campaigns existed long before scientists were discrediting creation accounts and thus it seems like a bit of a stretch to lay the creation of the fundamentalist urge at the feet of science.

  • Thin-ice

    I think the author IS saying ignore it:
    “… everyone: stop fighting this war. There are much, much more important ones to be fought…”

    It’s pretty much implied in those words, is it not? But I do like the principle of, in your words, “marginalize their crazy ideas…”. How do we do that? (But I do think Bill Nye DID make Ham’s words sound like looney ravings!)

  • Steve Greene

    “So I think people like Dawkins are actually fairly justified in their nihilistic vision.”

    To be fair, Dawkins is neither a nihilist nor an existentialist, but is more properly described as a secular humanist.

  • Steve Greene

    “Religion is about seeing mind and personality in the world, while science is about seeing the world as a bunch of impersonal, mechanistic interactions.”

    Actually, science is about seeing the world as it is, as accurately as we are able to see it. Psychology and social psychology are, after all, branches of scientific investigation. Religion is about seeing mind and personality in the world according to religious traditions (doctrines) without due regard to credible real world evidence.

  • stanz2reason

    I’m not certain which parts of what I’ve said you’re addressing as you’re often making assumptions about what I’ve said and moving forward from there. I’ll reply as best as I can.

    Well, I don’t know, but it seems it’s okay for nonbelievers when they say, “I’d never believe in a God who allowed such-and-such.” I’m not even saying there’s a good reason to believe in a personal God, but not believing in one because the idea isn’t to one’s liking is pretty standard.

    While it’s probably more likely a nonbeliever would say ‘I’d never believe in a God (period)’, some might dismiss the notion of a God that particularly offends their sensibilities. This might suit someones piece of mind, but isn’t grounds in itself to follow through with further rational claims. In other words, not all reasons for disbelief are created equal. That belief in one form or another is common says nothing about whether ‘people won’t like the answer’ should be a factor in matters of rational inquiry.

    I’d say it’s a bit more like reducing the entire matter of religion to a debate.

    Any and all claims are subject to debate, particularly when they are competing claims about the same thing. Religion makes claims about the natural world. So does science. These claims are often at odds. Concrete scientific fact trumps religious superstition 100% of the time. That’s not to say that metaphysical arguments made by people of science trump all theological claims.

    the online army of Junior Scientists pretend that science has refuted religious belief, and empirical inquiry is on their side in the big culture war. Why would believers feel intimidated by that?

    Science hasn’t refuted the notion of religious belief (and I’m not really certain that it could), but it has relegated to the absurd certain specific beliefs. The scientific method is another in a long line of tools we use to make claims about the natural world. It makes the bare minimum of assumptions (nature is knowable, laws are consistent, etc.) and has the benefit of being verifiable regardless of culture. Like all tools it is not perfect, but it has yielded better results than any tool before it. Believers like the YEC folk should feel intimidated by that.

    So where do you draw the line?

    I’d start at ‘museums’ that have people riding around on dinosaurs. That’d be a good place to start.

    But it doesn’t seem feasible to subject people’s religious beliefs to the scientific method.

    Why would I grant privilege to religious claims about the natural world that makes them beyond the scrutiny of other claims? If your claims are, like Hams, that the age of the world is something in the mid-thousands of years, then he’s inviting people to evaluate said claims.

    Don’t laugh, I’ve heard people here declare that they think all beliefs should be evidence-based. Isn’t that a bit much?

    I don’t feel all beliefs should be evidence based, but I do think a reasonable person re-evaluates their beliefs based on compelling evidence to the contrary.

    Sure. But saying it’s “subjective” doesn’t mean it’s pretend, or that it’s irrelevant. Does it?

    I’d be the last person to equate subjectiveness with pretend or irrelevant. I’m a firm believer that some of the most ‘real’ foundational elements of the experiencing human are subjective, including maters of purpose, meaning & morality. I’m not suggesting the subjective assignment of meaning to in any way diminish the value of said meaning in comparison to one that’s assigned ‘objectively’.

  • http://batman-news.com Anton

    Stanz, I think we’re in fundamental agreement here.

    I certainly don’t want to come across as defending Ham, and I don’t think anyone else here does. You’re right in that religion has no business making scientific claims, and we have every right to oppose having pseudoscience taught as fact.

    No one wants to get rid of scientific inquiry either, or radically revise it to pander to religious prejudice the way Ham does. As Connor said, we have a lot more exploring to do, and we need empirical evidential inquiry to help us do it.

    The problem we have is the way nonbelievers symbolize religious belief in the shape of one Ken Ham or another, just to avoid having to differentiate between religious belief in general and pseudoscientific hoaxery.

  • stanz2reason

    Sorry for the multiple posts… I suck at Disqus. I spent more time trying to put in a picture of the dinosaur then I did typing my response. Then I trying deleting a reposting, but it kept the original comment. ugggg… Hopefully Connor’s more tech-savy that I am and can clean up my mess.

    I agree, I don’t think it’s fair to equate all religious beliefs. There are religious positions that are reasonable to hold and worth engaging with in a serious manner, even if I might take issue with some of their base assumptions.

  • Sven2547

    the popularizing anti-Creationist crusaders are committing a similarly grave error by making a cartoon out of faith and working their damnedest to convince us that all religious people are dolts and buffoons

    To the contrary, Nye repeatedly emphasized that Ken Ham’s particular flavor of insanity is not representative of most religious people, or even most Christians.

  • http://www.carmelites.net/ James

    “Meanwhile, however, the popularizing anti-Creationist crusaders are committing a similarly grave error by making a cartoon out of faith and working their damnedest to convince us that all religious people are dolts and buffoons – not by saying so outright, mind you, but by giving the most attention to the least-enlightened representatives of faith, by debating the Ken Hams of the world but not the Huston Smiths or the John Haughts.”

    If you’re going to go into a debate, why not go into a debate with someone that you know it’s easy to win against? Huston Smiths and John Haughts might have made Nye sweat. I’m sure there might be a desire among some to make the religious look like fools, but I also believe there are a number who simply desire to crush their opponents. Taking on someone like Ham is significantly easier to defeat than someone like Smiths or Haughts.

  • ortcutt

    1. “Yes – and priests. Before Huxley’s age, a lion’s share of the holders of seats in the Royal Academy were clergymen.”

    I’m not sure what the Royal Academy (of Music?, Dance?) has to do with science. If you mean the Royal Society, then you will need to present some evidence that most of them were clergy.

    2. “Meanwhile, however, the popularizing anti-Creationist crusaders are committing a similarly grave error by making a cartoon out of faith and working their damnedest to convince us that all religious people are dolts and buffoons – not by saying so outright, mind you, but by giving the most attention to the least-enlightened representatives of faith, by debating the Ken Hams of the world but not the Huston Smiths or the John Haughts.”

    Complete nonsense. Scientists (and science educators like Nye) challenge Young Earth Creationists because YEC is mind-bogglingly common within the American population. According to a May 2012 Gallup Poll, 46% of Americans believe that man was created in his present form within the last 10,000 years.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/21814/evolution-creationism-intelligent-design.aspx

  • ortcutt

    That’s quite an odd false-choice that you are presenting there. If you think that science is right-wing, you should really go out and meet more scientists.


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